The Essence Within: Divinity or Depravity?

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

The contemplative delusion that the kingdom of God is “within.”

The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Jesus, Luke 17:20-21, KJV

In common with eastern mysticism and New Age religion, contemplative spiritualists assume that all humanity possesses a divine essence within their souls, an essence waiting to be awakened via contact with God through meditation. Because “God is within and permeates all creation,” one contemplative states, “Every person can awaken to this and experience God directly.” She then adds, “. . . anyone can experience this dynamic presence of God, because God is within everything he creates. . . . So ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’ is hardly a heretical statement.” [1]

Her reference to the “kingdom-of-God-within” derives from Jesus’ statement in the Gospels where responding to the Pharisees’ question about when the kingdom of God would come (Luke 17:20a), Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Emphasis mine, Luke 17:20b-21, KJV). As assumed by contemplative spiritualists, did Jesus mean to infer that all persons possess a “dynamic presence,” a divine kingdom within them?
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Perfect Present

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

The “Spiritual Secret” of Greg Boyd.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8, KJV

On the cover of Gregory A. Boyd’s recently published book, Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now, this endorsement appears:

“Discover a spiritual secret that is as simple as it is profound. Highly recommended.”

—Brian D. McLaren
author, speaker, and activist [1]

One “spiritual secret” in Boyd’s book may be discovered in a footnote to the second chapter, Finding Home. [2] The secret is: “We no longer have a ‘sinful nature’.” Wow! Assuming the author is writing about Christians, he is asserting they no longer have a sinful nature (i.e., nature equals the essential properties of a thing). In other words, our nature is “perfect now”! Within the Christian’s psyche there no longer resides an inner disposition to sin. Possessing inner immunity against sinning, Christians can conduct their lives in a “present perfect.” As with Roman Catholics Brother Lawrence (c. 1614-1691) and Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), and the evangelical Frank Laubach (1884-1970), there is no  inner barrier that hinders Christians from contemplating God 24/7. They can sense God’s presence in everything they do throughout every minute of the day, which is what Boyd’s book is all about. [3]
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Beatific Beatitude

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

Matthew 5:8 and the mystic vision of God.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Jesus, Matthew 5:8, KJV

If we were to see God, what might deity look like? In a metaphorical borrowing from the imagery of the biblical Tabernacle, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ describes both the process for and image of discovering the god within. That gospel advises:

Look deep into the temple of your brain, and you will see it all aglow . . . and you are in the Holiest of All, where rests the Ark of God, whose covering is the Mercy Seat. . . . And then, behold the manna there, the hidden bread of life; and he who eats shall never die. The cherubim have guarded well for every soul this treasure box, and whosoever will may enter in and find his own. [1]

Upon such a visage within, the mystic exclaims, “Eureka! God lives in my brain!” The specter of such a god issues from an assumption that all persons possess an indwelling divinity that is theirs to discover. But because they are unconsciousness of that “presence,” the mass of people go through life ignorant of it. Thus, to realize their higher-self, people need to develop their consciousness of the indwelling Christ by employing certain meditative practices and techniques to purify their souls in order to see God. As one Hindu website explains: “Men and women, in their essential nature, are divine. We do not feel this divinity because of our ignorance.” Then citing Matthew 5:8, the site goes on to say:

The only goal of our lives is to realize this divinity. It is possible to realize the divinity by removing the ignorance, just as Jesus said: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God’. [2]

Eastern mystics thus claim to follow Jesus’ prescription for finding the god within. By voiding “this-worldly” distractions and attractions from their souls, they believe they will create a spiritual climate in which they will see God. As one Hindu devotee explains, “The meaning of this beatitude is that those whose consciousness is posited at the center of their being (spirit), without there being any ‘thing’ in their awareness but that pure consciousness itself, are ‘seeing’ God.” [3] So, it must be asked, what might the Bible believing Christian think about the use of Matthew 5:8 to endorse such spirituality? Against the backdrop of the rest of the Scriptures, how might we understand Jesus’ words?
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Should We Wait in Silence?

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

Contemplative prayer and Psalm 62:1.

Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.” Psalm 62:1, KJV

Supporters of silent waiting in cite such Scriptures as 1 Kings 19:12, Psalm 46:10, and Psalm 62:1 to encourage the practice. Regarding the last mentioned verse, Richard Foster writes:

Contemplative Prayer is the one discipline that can free us from our addiction to words. Progress in intimacy with God means progress toward silence. “For God alone my soul waits in silence,” declares the Psalmist (Ps. 62:1). [1]

But does David’s description of waiting in silence qualify as a proof text for practicing listening prayer?
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Let All the Earth Keep Silence

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

Habakkuk 2:20 and contemplative prayer.

But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20, KJV

“Without a doubt” writes one prayer trainer, “the most difficult step in intercessory prayer is this one–keep silence, be still.” [1] Along with nine other biblical passages, the online adviser cites Habakkuk 2:20 to teach:

It is the mandate of God that we still ourselves before him in order to find his peace and hear his voice. So thus we have as the first and most important step in the believer’s prayer life to still ourselves before the Lord. [2]

The BE STILL DVD also employs the Habakkuk verse to invite viewers to practice contemplative, centering, or listening prayer. [3] But as cited by contemplatives along with Psalm 46:10 (“Be still, and know that I am God“), is this prophetic verse a superficial use of scripture that ignores the verse’s real meaning?
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The “Shrine” in Mind

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

Benjamin B. Warfield on Contemplative Mysticism

Of all the conceivable forms of enlightenment, the worst is what these people call the Inner Light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the God within. Anyone who knows anybody knows how it would work; anyone who knows anyone from the Higher Thought Center knows how it does work. That Jones should worship the God within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. [1]

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are . . . mighty in God for . . . bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . .” Paul, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NKJV

As endorsed by a glut of books written by its various leaders and authors, the pan-evangelical movement–that “once-upon-a-time” embraced the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, that Scripture alone is sufficient in matters of faith and its practice (2 Timothy 3:16)–is promoting and embracing mystical spirituality. Because parachurch ministries, local church pastors, and spirtitual directors encourage practices of spiritual formation, increasing numbers of devout souls are uncritically engaging the contemplative disciplines. For reason that they desire a closer walk with God, these sincere souls engage in spiritual techniques which they hope will open new doors and vistas of spirituality to them.
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Breath Prayers

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

Does saying “breath prayers” make us God’s “best friends”?

Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17, KJV

To direct people on a spiritual journey for 40 days, Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life. The bestselling book has impacted millions of persons. Some of Pastor Warren’s purpose involves recommendations for “Becoming Best Friends with God.” To become God’s friends, the author shares six secrets, one of which is practicing God’s presence by being in “constant conversation” with him. After quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“pray without ceasing“), Warren asks how a Christian can practice unceasing prayer to which he answers:

One way is to use “breath prayers” throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated in one breath. [1]

Then after providing ten examples of short biblical phrases that could work as breath prayers, Warren advises “Pray it as often as possible so it is rooted deep in your heart.”[1] In this context, Warren also cites the book of Brother Lawrence (c.1605-1691), The Practice of the Presence of God, who advocated experiencing God’s presence in the most menial of circumstances by praying short conversational prayers throughout the day. The Roman Catholic practice of praying the rosary is akin to breath prayers.
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A Still Small Voice?

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

Contemplative prayer and “the Elijah experience” of 1 Kings 19:12.

And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11-12, KJV

Elijah’s Mt. Horeb experience, when he heard “a sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12, NRSV), stimulated in the church a tradition of desert spirituality which pursues solitude in order to experience the divine presence and hear God speak. [1] Practitioners of lectio divina (i.e., reading sacred things) also desire such encounters. They say:

When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God . . . [2]

About Elijah’s experience of hearing God’s “still small voice” (KJV, NKJV), questions arise. Does 1 Kings 19:12 endorse contemplative spirituality? Was the prophet’s encounter with God in the cave on Mt. Horeb/Sinai a mystical “atunement”?
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Be Still (Updated)

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality

Contemplative, or Listening Prayer and Psalm 46:10.

After reading Ephesians 1:15-23 (lectio divina, i.e. Latin for reading sacred things) at the Passion 2012 conference, and while standing on stage with the other keynote speakers beneath a giant screen reading Jesus, speak to me,
Beth Moore tells the audience:

Without any comment please, let’s pause and be still,
and ask Jesus to speak His word to us.

Held in Atlanta, GA, last January 1-3, at the Georgia Dome, and attended by over 42,000 college age youth, one can observe Lecrae (a converted rap and Hip Hop artist), Francis Chan, Louie Giglio and John Piper, along with thousands of youth, participating in the mystical practice of contemplative or “listening” prayer at Moore’s behest, and this despite the fact that Scripture provides no instruction or illustration for engaging in such a “spiritual” activity. [1]

Be still, and know that I am God . . .” (Psalm 46:10). Those promoting contemplative or “listening” prayer refer to this Scripture as a biblical endorsement for pursuing this spiritual discipline. As a precondition for experiencing Soul-to-soul communication from God, contemplative Christians advocate cultivating quietude for the purpose of creating a spiritual tabula rasa (i.e., Latin for blank slate) in which personal communication from God can be received. Influential Christian leaders and spiritual directors encourage listening prayer (praying without words) as a means to experience “God’s guidance in everyday life.” At face value, Psalm 46 verse 10 appears to endorse this increasingly popular but ancient and mystical way to pray.
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